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Nike says it's cooperating as Fifa indictment unsealed

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Nike Inc said it's cooperating with authorities on the same day the US unsealed charges saying an unidentified sportswear company took part in bribing a Brazilian soccer official for a sponsorship agreement.

[NEW YORK] Nike Inc said it's cooperating with authorities on the same day the US unsealed charges saying an unidentified sportswear company took part in bribing a Brazilian soccer official for a sponsorship agreement.

The deal described in an indictment of FIFA officials mirrors one obtained by Nike. The charges refer to a US company that signed a partnership with the Brazilian federation in 1996. Nike, based in Beaverton, Oregon, announced its decade-long pact with Brazil that year.

"Nike believes in ethical and fair play in both business and sport and strongly opposes any form of manipulation or bribery," the company said Wednesday in an e-mailed statement. "We have been cooperating, and will continue to cooperate, with the authorities." Nike, which isn't named in the indictment, declined to comment on the allegations.

Nike shares fell 0.6 per cent to US$102.84 on Wednesday in New York. The stock has gained 7 per cent this year.

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Winning the Brazilian sponsorship put Nike on the global soccer map. In 1994, its sales from soccer totaled US$40 million. More than two decades later, it is challenging Adidas AG for the title of biggest brand in the sport, with revenue from soccer reaching US$2.27 billion in fiscal year 2014.

Swiss police raided the luxury Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich at dawn Wednesday and arrested seven Fifa officials. Two former soccer executives were also charged by the US in the wide- ranging corruption indictment, which includes counts of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

In New York, Justice Department officials vowed more arrests, and to widen the investigation of Fifa officials and banks that may have been used in the alleged conspiracy.

"They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest, and protect the integrity of the game," US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a news conference. "Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves."

According to the indictment, unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, the unidentified company made a deal to pay US$160 million over 10 years for the right to exclusively sell Brazilian national team apparel and footwear.

In a separate agreement, the unidentified company allegedly paid US$40 million through a Swiss bank account to an official at a firm that buys and sells marketing rights in Brazil. Some of those funds were used to pay off a "high-ranking" Fifa and Brazilian soccer executive, according to the indictment.

Brooklyn US Attorney Kelly T Currie declined to comment Wednesday on the unidentified company.

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